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Yuri!!! On Ice: An OK Sports Anime, A Better Drama

I love Yuri on Ice. It is easily one of my favorite anime in the last ten years. The show is built upon powerful emotions: love, determination, redemption, rivalry. The emotional intensity makes it easy to get fully engrossed in the main cast. I watched it every week; I gushed over it with my sister, teared up at the music, and forced all my friends to watch it. I bought a crap ton of merch (see left). I’m yuri trash because I love loving Yuri on Ice. It fills you with positivity and makes you believe that anything is possible with hard work and a dream.

It took me a while to get over it. Months actually. The finale was such an incredible triumph of an end. It crashed Tumblr and Crunchyroll; the internet literally exploded. It took me a while to get my feelings together. Now, eight months later, I can think about it clearly and objectively. And, unfortunately, a lot of the perfection faded away.

Yuri on Ice is a very good show. It is not a masterpiece.

My thoughts on Yuri on Ice do not correspond with my feelings. When I think with my heart, it’s the perfect show. With my head, I see its falls and shortcomings…and there’s a lot of them. But the one thing I want to talk about is its focus. Yuri is about men’s figure skating; it focuses closely on the competition circuit of the sport. I think that was a mistake. As a sports anime, Yuri is good. As a drama, it would have been so much better.

Yuri on Ice is a love letter to figure skating. Its creators Sayo Yamamoto and Mitsuro Kubo made it to show their appreciation for the sport. I don’t want to diminish the role of figure skating in Yuri on Ice; it is the vehicle that brings Yuuri and Victor together. But the show suffered when it tried accomplish too much in displaying the Grand Prix Circuit.

Instead of just showing the central casts’ (Yuuri and Yuri) performances and developing some side characters (Phichit, Chris and JJ would have been fine choices), the anime tries to develop everyone, while showcasing all their performances. We get six routines an episode. In a 25-minute episode, sometimes more than 15-minutes of it is figure skating. That’s a lot of time. And, since it only focuses on the Grand Prix, we are forced to watch the same performances over and over again. Sometimes there are minor changes, characters getting better (or worse), but it gets repetitive. Maybe only picking a few characters to focus on would have been better. You can still show your love for figure skating, the technical prowess and agility required for the sport, without drowning the viewer in performances by characters that have no time to develop. There’s only so much progression a character can have through internal skating monologues.

For example, I love Otabek (he’s super cool and very handsome), but what do we know about him? He wants to win for his country (so does everyone), he sees Yuri as a rival and a friend and rides a motorcycle. He’s not flexible or graceful but is a great jumper. That’s it. And, in the final episode, we see his performance (and hear a fantastic inner monologue, one of the best in the show) but, at the end of the day, what does it matter? Wouldn’t it have been more important to take that time and focus it on Yuuri? More of a reaction after his score, a deeper conversation with Victor about it. Maybe Victor’s thoughts as he watches Yuuri answer questions from the press. Or take that time and elongate Yuri Plisetsky's moment, show him and Yuuri exchanging a few words on the podium. The core characters are so natural and energized that I wish they gave them more room to breathe. Instead, we get to watch a horrific, dancing parrot (yeah, I’m looking at you Seung Gil).

Yuri on Ice would have been better as a drama. Keep the figure skating, its importance and its intense competitions, but tone it down. Yuuri and Victor are such a dynamic central couple. Yes, they are a gay anime couple that isn’t fetishized and that’s amazing. But they’re also intricate characters on their own, with realistic emotions, shortcomings and organic chemistry. Having the opportunity to see their relationship develop more fully would’ve been an amazing gift. We get four episodes of personal conversations and small but powerful moments, but, once the circuit starts, they barely have time to speak. We’re too busy watching Chris turn himself on mid-performance and Leo de la Iglesia be mediocre.

I love Yuri on Ice. So much you don’t even know. I just wish there was more Yuri and less ice. I’m glad they put Yuuri’s story in a figure skating setting. It is a unique sport that deserves more appreciation; the response from anime fans and the figure skating world was incredible. But I wanted to see more of Yuuri, Yuri, and Victor, become more engrossed in their love for skating, each other and personal redemption. Apparently there’s a movie in the works, so who knows? Maybe there’s hope after all.


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